The history behind that fake photo of a shark swimming on a highway

The internet has always been filled with hoaxes, fakes, liars, and cheats, long before the term “fake news” became a household phrase. But no matter how many times a fake image of a shark swimming on a flooded highway shows up, the internet continues to fall for it. 

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma had major impacts on the U.S. in the last few weeks, which means social media was ripe with incredible stories, videos, and pictures of the storms and their aftermaths. Among the real stories, there were of course fakes. On Aug. 27, Twitter user Jason Michael shared an infamous photo of a shark swimming on a flooded highway. 

“Believe it or not, this is a shark on the freeway in Houston, Texas,” he wrote.

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Turns out the Dublin-based journalist was apparently just trying to make a point. The tweet received over 88,000 retweets, and Michael later responded that he was concerned how easy it was to fool so many people with fake news.

As Hurricane Irene was battering Florida on Sunday, the same image was shared by Twitter user @mopage19. He claimed the photo was taken on I-75 outside of Naples. 

“This is insane,” he wrote.

Later, someone asked if he knew where the photo actually originated. Mopage19 made it clear that he was just trolling.

The shark in this photograph is indeed real, but the shark swimming through a flooded highway is fake. The shark was initially captured by renowned National Geographic photographer Thomas P. Peschak off the coast of South Africa over 10 years ago.

On his website, Peschak explains that he was working with the White Shark Trust for more than 10 months to capture images of white sharks in South Africa that would help depict the current scientific research. 

The image of the shark stalking a small kayak went viral when Peschak first published it on his website. He claims the photo attracted “more than 100,000 visitors” in 24 hours. Given the stunning nature of the image, the photographer says that it garnered its fair share of skeptics claiming the image was altered in some manner. The original image even has its own debunking on Snopes.

Peschak maintains the image was not altered in any way, in fact, he told AOL Travel in 2014 that the photo was captured “on slide film Fuji Provia 100 using a Nikon F5 Camera and 17-35 mm lens.” On his site, he writes, “all magazines and prints were taken from a high-resolution scan of the slide with no…

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